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Break the Stereotypes About Dogs

Feb 25, 2008
Many of the stories you've heard about particular breeds of dogs are just myths. Take the American Pit Bull Terrier (Pit Bull), for example. Do you think they're vicious, or killers? If so, you're not alone; many countries have restrictive laws about breeding and muzzling these dogs. But this story is the result of history.

The Pit Bull, a cross between the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the fighting Bulldog, was specifically bred in the 1800s to be the ultimate breed for dog fighting. They are designed to be aggressive and downright mean, so many are dangerous - but in the right circumstances, so are all animals. As long as you raise a Pit Bull with the proper training, your dog, despite its reputation, will be no more dangerous than any other. Remember, though, that these often require specific handling in capable hands, so they are not the right choice for everyone.

English Mastiffs are another vilified breed. They have strong teeth and jaws, but they won't necessarily bite you. These are some of the world's largest dogs, so their owners need to be both strong and experienced: they can be stubborn and might overpower someone small. But these dogs actually make great pets, as long as you give them ample room to run - so they aren't a good choice for apartment dwellers.

The bullmastiff is slightly smaller but more active and faster, so these dogs still need an experienced handler. They can be somewhat aloof and aggressive toward other males. They were bred to help gamekeepers, chasing and trapping intruders, so they make great guard dogs - but they can sometimes be overprotective of their families and resist obedience classes.

The biggest problem with German Shepherds is that they have been irresponsibly bred because of their popularity. This has led to increase health problems, like arthritis, eye disease, and digestive disorders. These dogs have also become nervous, timid, or aggressive around other dogs. As long as you choose a careful breeder, these dogs make great pets because they are calm, trustworthy, and obedient.

Doberman Pinschers, or Dobermans, are military dogs that were bred from the Rottweiler, German Pinscher, Manchester Terrier, English Greyhound, and Weimaraner. They are very intelligent and quick, but irresponsible breeding has tarnished their reputations by producing nervous dogs that are sometimes unfriendly and may bite. Heart disease is another problem. But dogs from a respected breeder are likely to be obedient, observant, and clever companions, especially with early training. Just like all animals, however, you should not leave animals or young children alone with Dobermans.

There are two common types of Rottweilers: American and German. The Rottweiler, bred to drive cattle and be a guard dog, is another example of how poor breeding can be corruptive: behavioral problems have become more common. They are strong-willed and smart, so they are best suited to owners who are committed and active - especially because these strong dogs need so much exercise. They love attention, and will make spectacular family pets or guard dogs, because they are aloof toward strangers and protect their territory.

Have you heard that your dog will "turn on you" if you feed him raw meat? This is a myth. A bone with some raw meat can be an occasional treat for your pet, but your dog may be possessive. Just remember to let your dog know that this behavior is unacceptable: do not growl at or threaten your dog; just stand up slowly. Also, don't mistake your dog's playful behavior for aggression.

Another myth is that dogs and cats will never get along. This is not always true, because it depends on the individual characteristics of the animals. Some dogs love cats, some cats love dogs, some dogs hate cats, some cats hate dogs, some dogs hate dogs, some cats hate cats, some dogs don't even know they are dogs - and so forth.
About the Author
Ian Spellfield, an occasionally frustrated pet owner, tests and reviews cat urine removal products at his blog Urine Off Reviews.
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